Galant Without the Cloud

To serve as a credible and efficient chief of staff, Galant must clear four hurdles unambiguously: the attorney general and the High Court, and perhaps also the Turkel committee and the cabinet.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss sent shock waves through the government and military yesterday when he published an executive summary of his findings on the Yoav Galant land affair. The perception of a senior officer being very economical with the truth will weigh heavily on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein this weekend when he digests the material in his office on the appointment of Maj. Gen. Galant as the Israel Defense Forces’ next chief of staff. These include the findings Weinstein’s deputy Malchiel Blass gathered in August and remarks by the High Court justices on the petition against Galant’s appointment. The attorney general must submit his response to the High Court in the next two days.

The popular assumption is that Weinstein will decide Galant’s fate because the High Court does not often invade the attorney general’s space when he must consider whether something is reasonable. If he approves Galant’s appointment, the justices will hesitate, but they will approve his decision. And if he retracts his defense of the appointment, the justices will agree to that, too. ‏(And they will not help Galant or Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is largely responsible for the appointment, if either of them petitions the High Court against the attorney general’s decision‏).

That’s the accepted thinking, but that’s not necessarily the way things will work out. Senior officials’ problematic behavior cannot always be hidden behind the attorney general’s broad back. For example, Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair had mercy on Police Commissioner Rafi Peled, but the High Court put them in their place and urged Peled to step down. The acts attributed to Peled, even though they were only disciplinary infractions, not criminal, were no more serious than those that have entangled Galant. And Weinstein also has to consider damage to the attorney general’s status if his position is rejected.

Thus Galant has two high hurdles left, or even four, and not just one: the attorney general and the High Court, definitely, and perhaps also the Turkel committee and the cabinet, if those bodies demand that discussions on his appointment be reopened. To serve as a credible and efficient chief of staff, he must clear all these hurdles unambiguously.

Galant is not a cadet whose commanders doubt whether he should be an officer, and has the rank of acting officer until a final decision is made. He can serve as chief of staff only if the heavy, or at least the gray, cloud that hovers over him is completely lifted.